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I have just been hired at a new dealership that's using Cobalt, being a web developer for years (ISM for a few as well) I would rather roll around in manure and paste that online than use their website.

I decided to build one from scratch, before I show my GM my new site concept, I thought I would run it by the best of the best (You of course!)

Can you take a look at this screenshot mockup of the front page and give me some advice?

Thanks in advance for helping me with my sales, you all rock!

http://picasaweb.google.com/trainermitch/NewSiteDemo#54173749433034...

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I love the image...and have had my share of threats when I speak openly about vendors...so Ralph I completely understand the position you are in.
Ralph, while I did come into this with a great deal of confidence given my background ( I designed the Calworks jobs online system for the state of california for example, their "monster.com" of welfare to work) After reading your post and seeing that you also feel as I do, but with years of experience have come to the conclusion that we basically need to "suck it up" and pick a company that BEST fits what we are looking to do (and I agree, a minimum of three sites should be employed at the dealership level)

Well.. I am convinced...

That said, which major provider will let a very skilled designer have major if not most of the control of the look and feel of their sites, and allow for custom setups I may wish to test such as coupons, video credit walkthroughs and such?

So far I am impressed with Dealeron and rebeldealer, but I have no information on how much flexibility is built in?

I do see data normalization as the largest challenge to my project.

And again, THANKS ALL very very much, anything to help my dealership succeed is helping me quite a bit as well. You all have my thanks.
Mitchell:

Give us a shout at Dealer.com. We have done more custom work than any other provider in the space and our websites are incredibly flexible, especially given your pension for HTML coding.

Check out Alex Snyder's website for an indication of custom work. Now, Alex did spend some coin on this website, but it's a great one... in my humble opinion.

www.checkeredflag.com
There are two- Dealer.com and Jazel.com! Check them out-At Dealer.com, love my account rep and my web design unsung hero that I bug at least once a week to review something about my site that either I see slipping on my analytics or asking for some help in getting the SEO moved forward another notch...Andrew & Shane rock!
Kent and Silia at Jazel.com have a lot of the tools on the backend for building your own content like it sounds like you're looking for and also offer a hybrid platform that exceed what you're looking at with Dealertrends.com. Also, Jazel.com has the benefit of having the Fortune-500 eccom background, so they already have 25% of the real estate dedicated to the money making fixed ops.
I wasn't in on the groundbreaking design of the dealership's site where I'm at now, and even after keeping my GM involved totally in the redesigning of it, my GM still came up with stuff he didn't like and more that he wanted....I'm just thankful I didn't have to go rewrite code for his changes.

I've used Cobalt, and even though I had account advocates that would bend the rules for me to achieve the customer experience I knew from my customers that they wanted, I still ran into too many "we can'ts" with what I wanted the website to do. Also, the lead routing of the forms- ACK! That was another headache that @Ralph's post brought up- the intricacies of all the things that have to move like well oiled cogs- and the first time someone forgets to oil it- that's a lot of steam on one person's head...

I agree that it would be fun and less constraining to take the knowledge I have about site design and break out a full dealership site, yet since I don't that on a daily basis, I would miss just one of those details- it's like putting a toy together for your kid and you've followed the instruction manual (every now and then I'll actually do that- have you seen kids toys these days?!) and at the end, you look at this one piece that somehow got missed....
Instead, my time and light knowledge can go towards building out microsites that don't require all those pieces that a whole dealership site has. And I can also use the time to play with a lot of the widgets that can be designed for the dealership to use when they are ready for the needle to be moved for them...
Hey, and I'm not a GM, not your GM- yet outsider opinion take it or leave it...that's a lot of red on the work-up, even for Mitsubishi... I always think of Pizza Hut when I see that much red on a website and what I learned in Marketing 101 wayyy back- lots red stimulates high turnaround, which in our field= hi bounce.
Hey Mitchell,

Try giving izmocars a call. They have so much flexability with their sites, plus they have so many other widgets you can use. The best part is they don't charge you for changes to your site, no matter how many.
Murphy's Law of Custom Dealer Websites: No design is as easy to implement as it looks, every development takes longer than you expect, and if anything important can possibly be forgotten and cause even more delays, it will.

Shetterly's Corollary to Murphy's Law of Custom Dealer Websites: Inevitably, the dealer principal won't like the final website.

Bascomb's Resultant from Murphy's Law of Custom Dealer Websites: Properly presented, the website failure will still probably look good on the resumé you might end up needing if you're not careful. :)
@Keith Shetterly LOL! Amen...short, sweet and definitely gets the point across!
@Keith - This is brilliant and obviously based on real world experience!
I meant to say, "I just dodged this very bullet!" :)
Not sure about this, does Mitsubishi have any approved vendor or compliance issues with their dealer websites? Will it effect your leads from them? The credit app. is definitely not worth messing with in house (red flag is a hot potato right now). My thoughts is you should stick with a provider for the main site KISS principle works (keep the brass on even keel) and utilize your development talents in the remaining Digital Marketing / Digital Advertising areas. There should be plenty you can do (quietly) while viewing results and tweeking outcomes to master the lead generation world. Taking on the entire website seems like a no win situation for you... (unless you are looking to sell other dealers the website as well). Only the very best of sales to you and your team... Good Selling! DTG

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